With a seven match unbeaten streak under their belts, Roma ended 2019 on a high note, climbing all the way back to fourth place in Serie A, even putting a bit of space in between themselves and fifth place Atalanta. What's more, Roma have really been on a run all season long, having only lost three matches in all competitions. It's a streak we would have screamed for in nearly any other year, so let's try and keep some perspective in the wake of yesterday's putrid display against Torino.
There’s really no way to take the stink off this loss, but considering all that preceded it, I’ll encourage you not to throw the baby out with the bath water; Roma are heading in the right direction.
Having said that...Roma were atrocious in their first match of 2020. With 31 shots attempted and only seven on target, Roma put a new spin on the word wasteful. The attempts were there in spades, but as the match wore on Roma seemed to simply settle for any available shot, and, well, you saw what happened.
Despite the loss to Torino, Roma remain in fourth place, though their grasp on that position has grown more tenuous. A win could have potentially put seven points between Roma and fifth place Atalanta, but with nothing to show for yesterday's efforts, Roma's lead could potentially shrink to one point.
Now that we've got all that out of the way, let's take a look at the highs and lows from this one. And as a reminder, statistics to play a larger role in these, so despite Roma's poor showing yesterday, there were still a few standouts.
For the first time Roma's magnificent manager makes our list of sinners. Yes, his team couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn yesterday, and while I wouldn't dare say he was out coached, his failure to make any real tweaks in the flow of the match didn't help matters any. While the first change he did make, removing Diego Perotti in the 72nd minute, did little to change the flow of attack and stripped the club of perhaps its most effective player to that point.
However, to his eternal credit, Fonseca recognized and copped to his club's difficulties in the match:
There were difficulties in the first phase of build-up, with Amadou Diawara and Jordan Veretout – that’s true. However in the first seven minutes of the game alone we managed to create several opportunities
we had a hard time down the right channel. Torino always had three players in that area of the pitch, which caused us problems, particularly in the first period.
He didn't really elaborate, so we can only guess what he told the club throughout the match, but Roma didn't really pass the eye test yesterday: they were sluggish and too one-dimensional for large swaths of the match and didn't really seem to correct the issue as the match wore on.
Some of that has to fall on the manager, no matter how poor the shots were.
In some ways, Dzeko finds himself in a unique position regarding the relative distribution of criticism and praise. As the club's only legit forward, he earns heaps of praise when Roma plays well (even if he's not actually scoring) and when things are going bad, he's just as likely to receive undue blame.
But...uh...he was not good yesterday. In 90 minutes, Dzeko put only one of his five attempts on target and completed only 64% of his passes while committing several turnovers and/or unforced errors. And then there was that moment in the first half where he was done in by a patch of grass on what otherwise seemed like a decent chance at beating Sirigu.
Dzeko has had worse matches in a Roma shirt, but this was another shining example of how much this club relies on him...for better or worse.
Roma were a bit letdown by their back-line as well (neither Smalling nor Mancini were at their best) but let's try and dig out some positives from this one.
I was pretty shocked by these numbers as well, but in 90 minutes Pellegrini dished out seven key passes, hit on two of four long balls, played six accurate crosses, drew three fouls and ripped off eight shots, though only two were on target.
Roma were pretty wasteful in attack, but were it not for Pellegrini, they wouldn't have had as much to waste...if that makes sense. Pellegrini's development as a passer and play-maker this season has been a joy to watch, and he even pulled off a Totti-esque backheel yesterday, one that Zaniolo very nearly turned into a goal.
We don't know what the future holds for Alessandro Florenzi, but Pellegrini has what it takes (and more) to be the Roman standard bearer for many years to come.
Lopez can't really be blamed for either goal yesterday—Belotti could attempt that shot 100 more times and never make it—but he flashed his impressive positioning and reflexes several times throughout the match, and was superb with the ball at his feet, hitting on eight of twelve long balls while completing nearly 86% of his passes.
Pau was a bit slow to start the season, but he's really been showing the goods over the past couple of months. Agility, reflexes, intelligence and distribution—he's got them all. He's the Real McCoy.
Based on his 72 minutes of action yesterday, it sure seems like we're headed for another Perotti upswing. The 31-year-old Argentine is a notoriously hot and cold player, but when he's on form, he's arguably Roma's most skilled player with the ball at his feet.
In those 72 minutes, Perotti completed 94% of his passes, handed out four key passes, dribbled past four defenders, drew three fouls and hit on three of three long balls.
He was far and away Roma's most dangerous player yesterday, but made way for Kalinic (for some reason) midway through the second half. With Cengiz Ünder relegated to the bench and Justin Kluivert injured, Roma will need every bit of Perotti early in 2020.
Until next time!